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The Mission of Art from Ashes is to empower struggling youth by providing creative programs that facilitate health and hope through expression, connection and transformation.

Award-winning documentarian Rachel Julkowski has updated the Art from Ashes video!
:: Check out the new one download here || watch online || YouTube
:: Watch the 4-minute video "Shine" :: small || large
:: Watch a 2-minute video (the condensed version!) :: small || large
:: CLICK HERE for more information (a lot more!) and watch this 15-minute CNTV interview with Executive Director Catherine O'Neill Thorn, Lead Facilitator and former Program Director Lindsey Wise, and former Youth Poet Chance Two Crow
Find out about the latest documentary by filmaker Rachel Julkowski, God's Square Mile.

— Carlos, age 14, in a poem about the shooting death of his older brother

who we are
Every day in America, children face enormous events that people of any age would find difficult to endure. For young people the emotional toll is heavy, and often suffered throughout their lives. Imagine the cavernous depth of Carlos's loss. What is our obligation to children who lose family members to violence, alcoholism, or drug addiction? What can we offer those whose lives are fractured by emotional or sexual abuse?

Since its inception in 2003, Art from Ashes (AfA) has provided poetry and creative workshops to high-risk youth, facilitating expression, connection and transformation among the most neglected and vulnerable segments of our community. Catherine O'Neill Thorn, founder and Executive Director, has been conducting transformational poetry and spoken word workshops at juvenile detention facilities, treatment centers, and schools—including post-trauma workshops for Columbine High School students—since 1992.

During her 20 years of working with youth in various treatment venues, Catherine developed the Phoenix Rising curriculum. It was designed to empower struggling youth to express their creative genius through metaphor and expose them to a language based on self-affirmation and belief in a successful future. This method has since become the seminal program of Art from Ashes. In a series of 3-minute writing prompts facilitated over two hours, young people see immediate evidence of their creative ability and readily share their experiences—a process that often takes much longer using standard inquiry or therapies.

While Art from Ashes does not utilize therapy, in fact much of the facilitator training deliberately distinguishes our process from art therapy, our creative process moves beyond standard arts programming. The workshops provide a forum through creative expression for recognizing and acknowledging previous negative experiences; removing the barriers that isolate young people from each other, from caring adults, and from society; and allowing youth to experience health and hope rather than the expectation of further victimization.

To date, AfA has provided creative workshops with 86 partnering organizations for more than 7,000 [unduplicated] young people who have survived traumatic events, are victims of abuse, neglect and/or poverty, and are at risk for or engaged in destructive behaviors.

what we do
AfA's creative programs use right-brain techniques and cutting-edge scientific information on creativity and neurology to provide workshops that not only offer young people access to the arts and to their creative power, but in doing so also address risk factors among struggling young people.

Studies show that factors contributing to juvenile delinquency include a lack of activities for youth that provide constructive developmental experiences; disconnect between youth and adults; and the lack of personal resiliency that results from low self-esteem/self-efficacy. Our creative workshops are focused on positive, interactive activities that are designed to promote healthy thinking and behaviors; offer an opportunity for youth to connect to adult facilitators, poets and artists, each other and the community; and survey results attest to the powerful impact of the program on self-esteem.

:: CLICK HERE for information on our Phoenix Rising Poetry and Spoken Word Program
:: CLICK HERE for information on our Casting Shadows Theater and Play Program
:: CLICK HERE for a list of our facilitators, staff and volunteers

why it works
We know it works because we get results.
The Report on Community Based Youth Organizations by the Carnegie Foundation found that young people who are involved in after-school community arts programs:

Numerous studies also assert that participation in the arts promotes positive outcomes in other academic disciplines and in social development and cognitive capacity and that learning in the arts helps shape motivation, intense self-discipline, confidence and perseverance.

Poetry Stats from 2012
Our programs have been immensely successful in encouraging transformation and leadership in young people, and also have been enthusiastically welcomed by youth. Post-only statistics (a self-assessment by youth after only a few workshops) of our work with youth conducted by the National Research Center in 2008/2009 have shown that of the participants surveyed, 100% of the youth enjoyed the workshops; 73% feel better about themselves; 80% cared more about the feelings of others; and 80% wanted to be more involved in their community. Since then, we have contracted Programs Evaluator Lewis Lease, who wrote and received a federal grant from SAMHSA to ensure our results are evidence-based.

AfA's 2012 evaluation report showed that after participating in the Phoenix Rising poetry and spoken word program:
20% more young people said they stay away from violence and fighting all of the time...
23.4% more young people said they say 'no' to things they know are wrong all of the time...
40.6% more young people said they stay out of trouble all of the time......

...than before participating in Phoenix Rising workshops.

You can help us reach more youth with your tax-deductible cash donation. CLICK HERE to view our sponsorship levels or download the information here.

Donate through ColoradoGives.org You now can donate online through ColoradoGives.org, a program of Community First Foundation, that provides a link between giving and the community.
Offers of assistance and in-kind donations would also be very much appreciated. For other ways in which you can help, please contact the office via email or link to our SUPPORT page.


how it works
As an example of the expression, connection and transformation process, the Phoenix Rising program combines the articulation of painful events or circumstances in the lives of struggling young people; the opportunity to release the pain and fear of those experiences among peers and mentors; and the guidance that allows youth to use strong, healthy words that encourage an identity based on choice rather than victimization.

Art from Ashes is dedicated to providing creative programs to marginalized youth, many of who have been wounded by abuse, neglect or societal abandonment. Yet despite the apparent disconnection with society and often with their own families, it is our experience that young people maintain an awareness that what they think and feel is important and must be shared. But if a young person has been consistently discounted and devalued, they can end up alone, angry and with feelings of worthlessness. This sense of helplessness and isolation can lead to violence, criminal acts, "lack of conscience," high-risk sexual behaviors, substance abuse and/or suicide. Youth are often resistant to cognitive and behavioral therapies. They resent attempts by therapists to analyze them, and many lack the tools to either articulate their pain or receive instruction and guidance. Isolated and unheard for so long, they now refuse to listen. This is why Art from Ashes has been so successful. Because we do not use therapy as a tool for healing, but rather use the arts as a means for transformation, youth begin to understand that all people have suffered, and that, as Maya Angelou says, "...someone was there before you—lonely, brutalized, aware...and that someone has survived with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style."

Rather than declaring the behavior of high-risk youth an outrage and filling our correctional institutions with discarded young lives, supporting poetry programs is a positive and vastly more effective approach. The best way we can show our commitment to youth is to empower them to live healthy and productive lives. If young people feel heard and respected, if they develop a sense of self that is not based on the messages of failure they have received, and if they can relate to the struggles and dreams of others, they can begin to create a positive future for themselves and for their communities.

where we are
The Art from Ashes offices are located in the Denver Arts District one block east of Santa Fe on 9th and Inca: 853 Inca St., Suite 1A, Denver CO 80204. We're in the same building as the art gallery at 855 Inca, at the south door. Come visit us; we'd love to see you, and we always have the kettle on.


information on Art from Ashes programs
Phoenix Rising Poetry and Spoken Word Program Phoenix Rising logo
The Phoenix Rising program encourages youth to recognize the power of words to transform perceptions based in victimization and helplessness to creativity and self-determination. CLICK HERE for more information on this life-transforming process or contact program manager Jessica Fitzgerald at jessica@artfromashes.org.

Casting Shadows Theater and Play Program
In order to cast a shadow, young people must learn to embrace the light within. CLICK HERE to learn more about our new transformational creative program for youth or contact Catherine O'Neill Thorn at info@artfromashes.org


details & downloads
Non-Discrimination Policy
Values Statement
Inclusivity Statement
501(c)(3) status
2010 990
2009 990
2008 990
2007 990
2008 NRC youth survey
2007 NRC youth survey
Information packet
List of facilitators, staff and volunteers
Information on youth workshops
Information on adult workshops
:: Non-Discrimination Policy
:: Values Statement
:: Inclusivity Statement


:: download a copy of our 501(c)(3) status here
:: download a copy of our 2011 990 here (3.8 MB pdf file)
:: download a copy of our 2010 990 here (2.2 MB pdf file)
:: download a copy of our 2009 990 here (1.8 MB pdf file)
:: download a copy of our 2008 990 here (84 KB pdf file)
:: download a copy of our 2007 990 here (466 KB pdf file)

:: download the results of the 2008 NRC youth survey funded by the Colorado Council on the Arts (48 KB pdf)
:: download the results of the 2007 NRC youth survey funded by the Colorado Council on the Arts (438 KB pdf)

For information on the history and mission of Art from Ashes:
:: download our information packet (196 KB pdf)

For information on the Phoenix Rising program:
:: download our Phoenix Rising information packet (379 KB pdf)

For more information on our workshops:
:: CLICK HERE for information on our current, previous and upcoming youth workshops
:: CLICK HERE for information on our current and upcoming adult workshops
Youth writing workshops serve up to 20 young people in a two-hour session. Adult writing workshops are limited to six people per one-hour session. Groups can be tailored to meet the needs of young singles, married couples, single parents, women only, men only, youth or children. Individual sessions also are available.

:: CLICK HERE for a list of facilitators, staff and volunteers.

:: CLICK HERE to download previous versions of our newsletter The Ascent or sign up on the left to receive it via email (quarterly)

Please call or email us to receive additional information on how this time-tested and effective process can help young people heal and grow through creative expression.

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853 Inca St., Suite 1A • Denver • Colorado • 80204-4364 • 303.837.1550 • f.303.830.2220 • info@artfromashes.org Funder Logos